Since the last elections several revelations have emerged of corrupt, and even potentially criminal, activities by persons currently or previously associated with the PPP and who have friends in the leadership or access thereto. Corruption has become so pervasive that it is no longer possible to keep the evidence away from the press and the police. And most important, none of them have come to light as a result of any action initiated by the government without prior exposure. It is now clear that the adamancy of the government and the PPP in refusing to acknowledge the level of corruption in the society, and to do something about it, is linked to where the corruption is located. It is not known whether government spokespersons are still so blind about corruption that they are still asking, where is the evidence? Guyana will soon qualify as The Kleptocratic Republic of Guyana.
An important clarification needs to be made. There are thousands of public servants, businessmen, contractors and others who perform services of a high quality with dedication and integrity. In any discussion on the issue of corruption they must always be acknowledged.
When the PPP came to office in 1992 Cheddi Jagan perceptively suggested the creation of Community Development Committees (CDC). Party groups and district committees were given the task of establishing these but they were to comprise members of the community and their initial functions involved the monitoring of contracts as an exercise in popular democracy. They were to be given copies of contracts so that the works could be measured and approved and not left to engineers alone. A government agency was established to assist the establishment of these CDCs and to ensure that they functioned. After 1997 the state’s interest in the CDCs began to wane and eventually withered.
Even though the intention was not clearly articulated at the time, the CDCs would have assisted in the transformation of the functioning of party groups and bodies whose roles had to be reassessed in view of the collapse of socialism and the attainment of office by the party. At the same time Cheddi Jagan must have understood the great danger of the emergence of corruption which he had been fighting vehemently during the PNC years. At the same time, the focus of party groups needed to be shifted to development and service issues so as to keep their activities relevant to the new situation. All of that has now collapsed in the scramble which was allowed to develop for jobs, gun licences, house lots and contracts.
It is not known what percentage of roads, bridges, buildings and other infrastructure works are badly done. The complaints are plentiful. And it is not merely that the contractors are dishonest. They tell you openly that if they have to bribe so many officials, then there is not enough to spend on the works to complete them in accordance with the contracts and to make a profit for themselves at the same time. Of course, they willingly collaborate with this state of affairs. This situation is a direct result of the failure of the PPP to build on the work of Cheddi Jagan and to deal with corruption. Many of these contractors, businessmen and suppliers of goods and services have close links with the PPP, including members of the leadership.
The other group consists of bureaucrats. Lest some of these protest that they are being unfairly maligned, the range of bureaucrats is not listed here. Many bureaucrats are dedicated and honest. But many others are corrupt. These bureaucrats are usually in charge of funds, contracts, supplies and they easily manoeuvre around the regulations to enable them to perpetrate their corrupt deeds. They utilize their positions to manipulate contracts so that the rewards go to them directly or through surrogates. They establish companies with their friends or relatives and steer the contracts to these companies. This is a well-known practice that is widely engaged in. They also have friends in the party leadership or access thereto.
Above all of these is a group of wealthy and influential businessmen who have high political connections. They meet regularly to examine business opportunities and potential deals and map out strategies as to how their plans can go forward, and implement those plans. They have access, through their political connections, to information of the potential opportunities that are likely to emerge in the near to medium term and are in a position to make the investments now so as to cash in on those opportunities down the road.
The PPP leadership is supported and financed by all of these groups and state decisions are influenced by their interests. The PPP is no longer motivated by working class ideology, although it still clings to its historical connections. The reason why the Public Procurement Commission, a vital instrument in the struggle against corruption, will never be established is that the PPP is a political organization that now represents a section of the petit bourgeoisie, those three parts of which are described above, whose interests are antagonistic to those of the working class and conflict with acceptable standards of integrity.